Quick question for my audience

What is the right reaction to this antagonizing behavior?

Confrontational situation:
You walk in and calmly and explains the problem and ask for it to be addressed reasonably.
Your opponent stands up, defensively, and says loudly (so that everyone can hear his signal for this attack)
“Huan. STAY CALM! I know you are very upset, But let’s be reasonable here, what you say is not the case and that we are right and you are wrong.”
People on his side on seeing this attack pattern will swoop in and follow suit:
“Please, Huan, stay calm! There is no need to be so upset!”
At this point, all I have stated were the facts and then I stand there and listen to three people accusing me of being UNCALM and UNREASONABLE.
Now, if I reacted in any way, (“what are you talking about? I am calm!!”, “But here are the facts…”, “Would not be reasonable if xyz were the case instead”…) I will be met with the same
“Huan, stay calm! Let’s be reasonable here.”
And try as you might, your reasoning, your composure will not remove the coloring that your opponent in this meeting are putting on you. In fact, maintaining composure and not react to the obvious provocation is quite a challenge.
Later on, in a court of law, everyone in the room will say:
“We tried to reason with Huan but he was very agitated, we tried to calm him down, in fact we have recordings of us saying ‘CALM DOWN HUAN!!'” and he just exploded!
What is the correct response to this kind of attack pattern? I mean, there doesn’t really seem to be any option left for me, and the only exit, that would not lessen my ground in court, is an immediate and silent departure.
Hypothetically speaking, for those of you who are monitoring my blog for pay or glory. This blog entry does not purport to be related to an actual situation that have or will take place before, after, or on the instant of this blog entry’s posting.

The King of California

In this day of post-christmatic Sunday, I watched a movie on Netflix. “King of California”

Apparently, according to the movie, the name California was originally a made-up name to mean a place with lots of gold…
Michael Douglas’s character, Charlie, tries to find gold by digging into a Costco floor (yes through the cement, and into the sewage line). Needless to say, he died in search of the mythical gold leaving her daughter Miranda by herself. The movie ends with Miranda finding new immigrants, Chinese, I believe, asking her if he’s arrived at America. (It’s a thing of Chinese language to use some supportive sounds to ask a question. “America, ma?” I remember my own arrival in the US, when I had asked a similar question by saying “Shannon ne?”, where the “ne”, making it a question asking where is shannon, got swallowed by Shannon, and the person I asked could not understand why I was saying some girl’s name at him, and explains patiently, “No, I’m Chris, Shannon is somebody else!”
Alas, I feel that I am closer to Charlie’s gold than to Miranda’s suffering from Charlie and certainly long time has past since that time when I was fresh out of the water.
Some days, like today, I really really envy Charlie, and I wish I had the faith, the conviction, and the vision of that bright yellow light so that I could take off my oxygen mask and swim through the narrow opening and into the wide golden brilliance.

Why do I care about privacy?

You might wonder why I spend so much time on my blog complaining about the lack of protection for personal privacy.

In my previous entry, I mentioned that one way to motivate personal privacy protection is to reverse the corporation argument. When the laws for corporations were established, it is modeled after a human being, with rights to hold property and to enter legally binding contracts. Certainly the supreme court recently upheld that view of corporation by giving corporations in the US the right to have political views and to participate in politics–just as any person would.
So, let’s reverse this argument. If a corporation is modeled after a person, and there are secrets, as long as they’re deemed trade secrets, that are protected by law. Should a person not be guaranteed his privacy in the same way?
More plainly, I think most people will agree with me that bank account names and passwords should be protected. Because that guarantees a person his personal property–a fundamental right in America. That means YOU CANNOT LOG INTO MY BANK ACCOUNT AND LOOK AT HOW MUCH MONEY i HAVE, and YOU CANNOT TAKE THAT MONEY OUT AND PUT IT INTO ANOTHER ACCOUNT EVEN IF THAT OTHER ACCOUNT IS MINE ALSO!!!!!!
Let’s phrase it another way. This American Government has secrets. There are very strict federal laws that disallows making public information, or even make individuals aware of or aware of the existence of certain information. And some of these secrets are about disagreeable agendas or actions or mistakes or direct violations of laws by the government.
By the same token, and by the 5th amendments, individuals should not have to make public or even make the government aware of information that it does not want them to know, EVEN if it’s evidence of my own wrong doing!!!
So this means if I have a secret contract to work with my employers competition, and I keep this information on my personal device. My employer should be breaking laws and should be punished severely if they come to know of this act by reading my personal emails (which I have kept off of company computers). If my employers put a camera in my home. If my employer put listening devices (AKA bugs) on my person, or in my food. If my employer installed a device on my pen to record the text of my writing. If my employer put a tracking device on my person, personal clothing, my car, my bike, my personal laptops.
ALL of these things are severe violations of my personal privacy rights!
If further, my employer make this information public, or to make it known to my peers at work. This should be considered a greater offense and should be punished severely!
If an agent does this on behave of my employer, the employer and the agent should both be punished.
If you are an employee of the company and you violate my privacy on your own accord for competitive reasons, then there should be federal law–not corporate rules–that prevents this act. I should be able to take you to court for reading my personal email because we work together!!
Now, needless to say I feel that my hypothetical taking of a contracting job with a competitor may be immoral and illegal, but that does not give the company the right to invade any of my personal privacies!!
Nor to do so indirectly!!
The company cannot spy on me! And it should also be illegal for the company to require or prefer the signature of a release allowing them to do so.
Btw, this release is stated indirectly, typically that you agree to not sue the company for privacy violations. Because it doesn’t say the company will do that, but it prevents you from seeking justice after the fact. So think of it this way. After you sign that, they can put a camera in your bathroom and watch you and your wife and your kids shower, and they can take the money that your hard work makes for the company and hire a person full time to do this, and you cannot sue because you agreed to it as part of the condition to work for them.
Alternatively, companies may ask you to sign this agreement at the exit. Which means they might have done so already and just want buy the right to keep those tapes and watch them again and again and you release them for what? maybe 3-months severance? maybe 6 weeks? maybe 100 stock units? It’s not worth it no matter how much they give you.
This clause should be as illegal as blacklisting union member!!
There really should be federals safe guarding day-to-day personal privacy of American Citizens.

Corporate e-spies

Ahh, I finally found the terminology for what I’ve been complaining about Industrial Espionage. So, all those people snooping on my computer, are dong so for commercial reasons.

There are people, be it hackers or government agents or people hired by the bosses to monitor employees, who have access to personal information: Full content of personal emails sent to me and received by me, recording of my verbal communication with other people, and video recording of my behavior.

The important aspects of my insecurity are two: privacy and identity. Privacy means information about me and originating from me, especially in a password protected situation, should not be known to other people. Aside from my believing that privacy is an important civil right, the more important fact is that it is important to my continuation as a live human that some things are private. If corporations are modeled after people (Legal entity being an alias for a person), why is it that corporation secrets (trade secrets) are protected but my personal secrets are not guaranteed? There must be reasonable privacy in America!

A second problem is one of identity. If you intrude into my electronic communication, it is obviously the case that you are also able to type in an email as if it was typed by me. In that case, my identity has been used in ways that I do not wish it to be used. For reasons I will not discuss in detail here, this should not be allowed. Identity theft should not be allowed in any case!

So in terms of privacy, if you are a….

Government agent and you are invading my privacy by monitoring my electronic communications: Please continue as usual. Please try to not understate my male prowess in your writings into the permanent records you have on file for me as it cannot be exaggerated.

Corporate agent from a competitor of my employee and you are invading my privacy: Please stop. I believe this is illegal under various state trade secret laws. If I find out about this you will be sued by my employer.

Corporate agent from my boss: please continue, please exaggerate my accomplishments in your report to my boss, if you let me know who you are, I will do the same for you.

My competing coworker: Please stop, this should not be allowed. Your act of personal selfishness is detrimental to my productivity and eventually to your bottom line.

Backlog: The Crucible

Just watched The Cruicible with Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder, which btw, is labeled as “Courtroom Dramas” on Netflix…

So, I am slowly coming to the realization that I have been a bad student in my younger youth. I never quite grasped or remembered the core conflict of The Crucible, which is that Rev. Parris peruses the witch hunt because of the potentially he could get all those witches and devil-worshiper’s land.

I turned this video on as background noise to drown out the construction outside fixing the water way that supplies San Francisco with fresh water. I began to pay attention to it when I heard this uttered by the Judge Hathorne, who, at least in the movie version, seem to be conscious of the underlying struggle for land, and may well be paid under the table by the Rev. Parris for his bias. The sentence uttered is:

[A] person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between

And I always thought George W. Bush coined “You’re either with me or against me” In his fight against modern terrorism… But it appears, after a briefing Binging session (as opposed to Googling, for some reason my Chrome defaults to Binging for results), that “You are either with us or against us” is quite well used and studied and has been spoken by the Romans and Jesus Christ. It is known as a false dilemma if the decision is not a two-way decision.

… Any ways, the main lesson of two hours spent hunched over laptop watching netflix is that irrationality and blatantly illogical reasoning arise out of ulterior motives. The McCarthy Era, the subject of The Crucible, apparently, according to Yahoo Answers, is a similar struggle by the Republicans for power.

It leaves me wondering, did this McCarthy Era actually strengthen America? Did the consolidation of the land in Salem Mass. have positive effect on the local political and economic system? Did it have a good side effect on American Christian communities? And why is it, that I, who am not a Christian, feel so moved by the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at the last hanging of John Proctor and the people against whom he could not lie, in this movie is based on a play written by a person of Polish-Jewish upbringing (according to wikipedia), but an atheist by his own account. I wonder… what really happened when these says were originally said, were they all on the edge of death from persecution, filled with regrets of a live shortened, yet hopeful in the correctness of choices made?

Have we humans really lived this way for these thousands of years, and continue in the same ways?

The Universal Recommender

So, I have been forced to think about recommendation on the web in recent weeks. My former employers laid me off from work and I had to interview and answer the question: “So what kind of recommendation algorithms did you work on?”

There have been many categorizations of recommendation systems, and here I will list just a few that I have had the chance to describe to my potential employers. The description is non-technical because often it is difficult to get into details of the algorithm due to numerous NDA’s I have signed at many companies. However high-level description should be okay, and please let me know informally and discreetly if you object to my listing them. [[This is to say, more explicitly, I do not believe any of this information is secret. And if they are your secret, it is my believe that either you have made the information public it or that I found it independently.]]

Generalized View
In the most grossly general way, a recommendation is the indication of availability and desirability of a specific object to be acted upon by the internet user so as to benefit the recommender and the internet user. Typically, one can think of a product (balloons, diapers, beer, games), media (movie/music/picture), or textual content (news story, FAQ articles). Typically also, the indicator of availability is either a specifically designated area with a creative which represents the product and text describing it. The indication could also be a popup window, a link, a pre-roll, post-roll, inlaid text or video. The indication of availability could also be sounds of speech, music, or other human audible sounds.

The benefit to the recommender typically materializes when the internet user purchases a product, video, music. But there could be intangible benefit that are quantified by surrogate measurements: clicks, hovers, add-to-carts, etc.

The User Experience
Ultimately tho, if I had to explain to the internet user what it is that I am doing, then these are the typical categories of explanation out there:

  • Relevance: This is your run-of-the-mill Collaborative Filtering algorithm making (item->item) recommendation, Items relevant to current item. (creative->blog page) (the blog page’s text creates the context for which to calculate relevance, AKA Contextual Recommendation/Advertisement), etc. Content Based Filtering may also apply.
  • Personalization: Typical collaborative filtering algorithm for making (item->user) recommendations. Typically, personalization is more personal than behavior targeting, but behavior results should fall under this category.
  • Performance: Ideally, every single recommendation made should be performance based, however, this category, for me, contains non-contextual, non-personalized recommendations. Popular among DVD & music stores is Movers & Shakers, Bill Board top 100 music charts, Oscar Winners). “Most Viewed Video Today”, notice there can be some restrictions to Performance based system–in this case “Today”, but it should be minimal and easily comprehended. Also, secretly, these could be high converters, although you’d never say that to your customer…
  • Referral: This is a very cool area of recommendation. This is your typical eHarmony match making (user->user). There is also (site->user), (blog->blog aka blogroll); Referral service is not very popular because it is very hard to put a value on the referral.
  • Discovery/Navigational: And finally, if your site lacks hierarchical/facet based browsing capability, and it does not have a good search engine, then recommendations can help to orchestrate the user experience by leading them into purchasing the product.

Btw, I got laid off from work doing this for a living, so this information may not be the best thing to repeat in your interview or your next paper, Caveat emptor. And if you’re a recommendations vendor or a retailer or a media content provider, Caveat venditor.
[[And to say this explicitly, I am not certain of the value of this approach to making a universal recommender system. Writing about it may bring you bad luck. Using the system for commercial purposes may not generate the desired revenue]]

Interesting Future Work:
Explore versus Exploit: The precise meaning and nature of this style of recommendation is unclear to me. This must have something similar to active learning algorithms that selects some examples for exploration to improve it’s performance…
User Experience versus Time-on-site versus Spend-maximization versus cost-minimization versus total user value.
User retention versus sales volume: If you sell lots of users a bad product, it can be made so that they don’t return the product, but they may never come back again.
AOV versus revenue: This is a hard call. I think I’d go for revenue, but there’re a lot of gotcha’s…
volume versus margin: This one is pretty complicated too.
CTR versus conversion rate: very difficult to determine what to use. It’s almost impossible to be sure form day to day and page to page and product to product and user to user which is more valuable.
Another thing not entailed in the above listing is the recently popular game theoretic approach to advertising. In the presence of many possible recommendations, Because the user are aware of the above five aspects of recommendation, they may second guess the value of the products being recommended based on the assumed underlying reason for those products being recommended. (More specifically, the user will think recommendations are being made to sell them something more expensive than something else that is of the same quality but lower price, etc.) This thought process obviously takes place inside most intelligent shoppers, but how do we leverage it so as to provide the best user experience?

The exclusivity of facebook

So I just watched “The Social Network” again. It seems that exclusivity is one of the key things of these social groups before they gain traction. I wonder if there are other exclusive groups in the world other than private schools and universities.

(Certainly I realize that having an university email address is a filter for minimal level of education, but what else could we have?)
  • Money: Themoneybook.com: only people who can afford to pay $500k a month can join the club.
  • Prestige: Only people who are willing to enter the prizes, trophies, and awards that they have received are allowed to join. (Looking for nobel laureates under 60)
  • Political affiliation: TheUnitedWeStandPartyFacebook.com, or republican under 30, or democrats over 5…, Nazis4Democracy.com; Commie2Commie.com
  • Large corporation: TheGMbook.com (only current, former, and aspiring GM employees)
  • Power: TheExecutivesbook.com; only E-level officers of companies with > $1billion annual revenue may join.
  • Physical: TheFootlongClub.com; yuck, kinda gay too; how’bout TheTwinTowersbook.com; sigh… the noise made by the vacuum of creativity here is astoundingly deafening.
  • Mental: TheJediAirbenderbook.com; only people who can bend air like that jedi lama may join and seek others of the same persuasion.
  • Moral stance: BlackSupremacy.com;
anyhoo… One of this will probly make somebody money… The reasoning is this: Because these people are extremists who will take every thing to the extreme, and certainly therein lay the money.
Okay, and I’m an extremist in my opinion about these, but… alas, everybody has his own mould right?

the negative sum game

Hmm, so I recently realized that I’ve been fairly silly in asking my neighbors how to stop cats from pissing and pooping in my front and backyard.

Yes, it’s 21st century, and I live 5 minutes from downtown, but people cannot be made to train their dogs and cats to use a litter box. Reasoning with the pet owners has yielded nothing.
So, here is the problem. If I ask my neighbors how to prevent cats from coming to my yard to shit and poop, what in the whole wide world would make them tell me the most effective method for chasing cats away?
Because there is a non-trivially positive but finite amount of poo these cats and dogs can produce on a regular basis. Since the dogs and cats don’t come every day, it would make sense that they are doing it else where when the poo didn’t land on my lawn. So a reduction of poo and piss on my lawn is an increase on theirs.
So….., I actually asked,…, and the answer was a bunch of really good suggestions about how to clean the poop up after the fact…
How dumb was that…
Thus, I seem to be stuck in a negative-sum-game, where somebody has to lose and asking other people how they are winning is hopelessly useless.
But I will tell you the answer: Cactus! Plant lots of cactus, sure it’ll hurt you when you trip and fall on it or when you garden around them, but just think of all the poo and piss that you won’t be seeing. But the down side is that there is a chance that they’ll do their business right on top of it, in which case you’ll have a stinky and prickly situation at hand.
sigh… I guess I’m misleading you too, huh. sigh… gotta play that darn game.

The Social-Industrial Complex

Social networking is _the_ hot thing in today’s economy. Well, the portion of the economy that I am part of any ways. I cannot imagine a product to work on that would get VC money and not have some component of social networking to it.

Being a fairly anti-social person since my migration to the United States around Jr. high time, I constantly find myself not being able to integrate into this very social society. And certainly, when it comes to work, I cannot think of a project that is not social in nature. The money, it seems, is flowing away from anything non-social.

So this brings to mind an expression the Military-Industrial complex that eisenhower used to describe the pervasive and dominating relationships of military, government and the industry in the 1960’s.

One wonders, if the current movement towards a Social-industrial complex, a move that is also pervasive and dominating: not only on the net, but off the net, our music players, our cars, houses clothing, will probably one by one become social.

Could it be that by some cosmic rightitude, the Yin-Yang meta-physical origin of all things, that a the social industry is growing to counter balance, some day, fully, the military industry?

Will there be a merge of social military industry some day and the two separate forces will merge and wars will be fought on social networks?

sigh, that’s probably too much to hope for.

And then maybe we can even consider this Religious-Industrial complex and all those other complexes out there…